Die Hard with a Vengeance

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No, this has nothing to do with the Bruce Willis’ series, although the tie-in is applicable to your life.

When it comes to living, Jesus said “dying” is the key:

(Luke 9:23 Amp). 23 And He said to all, If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [[a]disown himself, [b]forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, [c]refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [[d]cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also]

24 I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains [just one grain; it never becomes more but lives] by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces many others and yields a rich harvest. 25 Anyone who loves his life loses it, but anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. [Whoever has no love for, no concern for, no regard for his life here on earth, but despises it, preserves his life forever and ever.] 26 If anyone serves Me, he must continue to follow Me [[b]to cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying] and wherever I am, there will My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him (John 12:24-26 Amp).

The upside down kingdom

The kingdom of God is in one sense upside down. To die to self is to live; to be first is to be the least of all; to be honored requires putting yourself in a lower position in your heart. This isn’t popular in places where success, health and wealth are the foremost aspect of the gospel. The ego prefers being left intact, unbothered by the cost of discipleship. Yet, these verses teach that we all must give up ourselves to experience LIFE.

In many Christian circles, verses become the most important part rather than getting to know Jesus firsthand. We can ignore the PERSON of Jesus while jamming our heads full of knowledge. Like the Pharisees we can miss the forest for the trees!

You pore over the scriptures for you imagine that you will find eternal life in them. And all the time they give their testimony to me! But you are not willing to come to me to have real life! Men’s approval or disapproval means nothing to me, but I can tell that you have none of the love of God in your hearts (John 5:39 JB Phillips NT)

I’m still amazed that in most churches today the cross is still not preached as a means of power. We go there to have our sins forgiven, but the self-life, which died there also (Rom. 6:6, 11) is ignored, as far as our application of the cross is concerned. And though it’s not a sideline part of the Bible, this essential tool to living well and for a better reason is easily placed on the backburner if you’re simply trying to build a bigger church while making everyone happy.

This isn’t cushy. As a matter of fact, it can be downright painful when you decide that the will of God is more important than feeling good. The truth of the matter is that as you apply this truth to your life, joy will come “on the other side of the cross.”

Like sand in the hourglass…

Or so that famous soap opera begins. Life is so short. Paul called it “a vapor.” Seems when one hits 50, time speeds up, and the next thing you know, you’re looking at 70, you have grandkids, and you’re either fixed for retirement, or you’re looking for more coupons. Next thing you know, the undertaker – or if you’re a believer in Jesus – the uppertaker — will come calling, and we must give an account of our lives. Hebrews 9:27 says it’s appointed for us to die once, and after this comes the judgment:

27 And just as it is appointed for [all] men once to die, and after that the [certain] judgment (Hebrews 9:27 Amp).

This verse doesn’t tell us when this judgment is, although we are certain it happens after the bodies of every person dead and living will be called up from where they are to account for deeds done in the body:

10 because we must all stand before Christ to be judged. Each of us will receive what we should get—good or bad—for the things we did in the earthly body (2 Cor. 5:10 New Century)

Jesus assures us that one day everyone will hear His voice to receive one of two types of resurrections, some to eternal life and others to eternal damnation:

28Do not be astonished at this, for the hour is coming when all who are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29And they shall come out: those who have done good things, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil deeds, to the resurrection of judgment (John 5:28-29 Aramaic Bible in Plain English).

This should rattle anyone’s cage. To think we have to give an account to the Son of God should get our attention. He knows everything we’ve ever done, why we did it (our motivation), for whom we did it, and under what circumstances, so then we have no excuse when we stand before the one who sees right through us.

This all seems like bad news unless we consider a few very important caveats. For one, the Christian has already been judged for his sins when Christ died on the cross on him. This is because God the Father judged our sins and took His wrath out on them by accepting the sacrifice of His Son in our place. Romans 8:1 tells our there is now no condemnation for those who are IN Christ Jesus. So, the believer’s sins will not be judged, only his works:

11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames (I Cor. 3:11-15).

On the other hand, people who have put their stock in their own goodness, morality, principles, or anything other than accepting the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, will face the judgment of God for their own works, which Scripture says for any of us is “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6).

Two books, two judgments

Quite simply, there are two books that matter in God’s eternal library: The Book of Life, where every person’s name, who has been redeemed, saved, forgiven and made righteous by believing in Christ, is written, and the books, where all the works of the unredeemed are kept. Deeds done by these folks are counted as an affront to the righteousness of Christ, which they rejected in place of their own self-righteousness and works, according to God’s Word:

11 Then I saw a great white throne and the One Who was seated upon it, from Whose presence and from the sight of Whose face earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.

12 I [also] saw the dead, great and small; they stood before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is [the Book] of Life. And the dead were judged (sentenced) by what they had done [[b]their whole way of feeling and acting, their aims and endeavors] in accordance with what was recorded in the books.

13 And the sea delivered up the dead who were in it, death and Hades ([c]the state of death or disembodied existence) surrendered the dead in them, and all were tried and their cases determined by what they had done [according to their motives, aims, and works].

14 Then death and Hades ([d]the state of death or disembodied existence) were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.

15 And if anyone’s [name] was not found recorded in the Book of Life, he was hurled into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15).

The self-centered damage their kingdom investment!

Let’s take a look at the passage used previously regarding Christians who are interested in protecting their self-life:

Anyone who loves his life loses it, but anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. [Whoever has no love for, no concern for, no regard for his life here on earth, but despises it, preserves his life forever and ever.] 26 If anyone serves Me, he must continue to follow Me [[b]to cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying] and wherever I am, there will My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him (John 12:24-26 Amp).

This passage says, quite simply, that if you protect your self-life and refuse to give it up for Christ, you will lose everything in which you failed to give yourself over to Jesus for His glory and service. This is a scary thought, yes? But think of the many Christians you know who live for themselves, their comfort, and who are focused on preserving their energies, money and time for themselves. At the judgment seat of Christ, they lose everything that God doesn’t determine is gold, silver and precious stones to Him. Saved? Yes. Rewards little or none (1 Cor. 3:11-15).

I’ve written this article out of love for everyone who sits week after week under pastors’ sermons that tickle their ears without calling them to a true death to self in service to their king. You may attend the most popular church in town, but if you miss what I’ve written here, it’s tragic!

Jesus loves us with an everlasting love, but He made Himself clear on the subject of service. Like sands in the hourglass, our time here on earth is slowly slipping away.

Joseph Beckham is the author of Deeper Water for Thirsty Souls http://amzn.com/1493781286

 

 

 

 

 

 

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